By Todd Ballowe
Jim Collins’ 3 Top Ten Lists

Need some inspiration? In the world of Business Management, few minds stand out like that of Jim Collins, author of the classics Good to Great, Built to Last, and most recently How the Mighty Fall. Through the years, countless business people, organization members, students and folks from all walks of life have sought to learn from Collins’ wisdom.

So, I figure, why not see what he likes to read?

Not only that, let’s see what his top ten book recommendations, class recommendations and task recommendations are for the rest of us. So here, I’ve collected 3 top ten lists that I found on the Growth Guy’s website and from

Jim Collins’ Top Ten Books

  1. Churchill, The Second World War
  2. Caro, Master of the Senate
  3. Goodwin, Team of Rivals
  4. Bernstein, Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk
  5. Lewis, Moneyball
  6. Homer, The Iliad
  7. Drucker, The Effective Executive
  8. Gardner, Self-Renewal
  9. Lewis, Assault on Lake Casitas
  10. Manchester, Goodbye Darkness

Jim Collins’ Top 10 To-Do List for Leaders

  1. Download the free Good to Great diagnostic tool from and use it as the basis for assessment, conversation and planning with your team.
  2. Answer these questions for your organization:  What are the key seats on our bus and are those seats filled with the right people?
  3. Establish a personal board of directors for yourself.  When you create your board, choose the members based on their characters, not their accomplishments.
  4. Get young people (i.e. Gen Y’s) – the right ones – in your face.
  5. Turn off your gadgets and create some regular white space for thinking.
  6. Build a leadership council for your organization to engage in dialogue, debate and disagreement.
  7. Check in on your questions to statements ratio and set a goal of doubling it in the next year.  An early mentor to Collins observed that he seemed to be more interested in being interesting than being interested.  That’s what caused Collins to focus on his own questions to statements ratio.
  8. Start working on your stop doing list.  (A good reason not to start trying to do all ten of these tips at once.)
  9. Make sure that the core values and purpose of your organization are established early.  It will be too late to do so when the tough times inevitably come.
  10. Set your BHAG’s (Collins’ acronym for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) 10 to 15 years out based on your experience to date.

Jim Collins Top 10 Great Courses from The Teaching Company

  1. How to Listen to and Understand Great Music by Robert Greenberg.
  2. Great American Presidents
  3. Argumentation – The Study of Effective Reasoning
  4. What are the Chances? Probability Made Clear
  5. Economic History of the United States, 1900 – 2000
  6. Art Across the Ages
  7. Dante’s Divine Comedy
  8. Emperors of Rome
  9. The History of Ancient Egypt
  10. History of Modern Russia + From Yao to Mao – 5000 years of Chinese History